Days out in Shropshire
It’s fair to say that Shropshire is ideal for exploring for anyone wanting to discover the great outdoors. Whatever you’re visiting Shropshire to do, there’s plenty of history, heritage, attractions, and landmarks to visit. Alongside the county town of Shrewsbury and the larger town of Telford, smaller towns including Oswestry, Ludlow, Ironbridge, and Bridgnorth all offer something different.
A visit to Shrewsbury Prison in the heart of the town is highly recommended. Dubbed the world’s most interactive prison, you can take a guided tour or get involved in any of the activities inside this 18th-century former jail. Constructed with distinctive red sandstone, the nearby 11th-century Shrewsbury Castle and military museum are great to explore. For a little retail therapy, visit the independent boutique shops inside The Parade at the historic Royal Salop Infirmary Building.
The Telford Steam Railway in Horsehay offers a scenic journey on a heritage steam locomotive for a trip back to yesteryear, plus driver, guard, and footplate experiences. But Telford can transport you back even further at the Blists Hill Victorian Town – a faithfully recreated, living museum of 19th-century life, complete with authentic costumes, attractions, and demonstrations.
In Ironbridge, you can visit the Iron Bridge and Toll House and walk across the first ever cast-iron bridge that crosses over the River Severn. Once a Norman fortress before becoming a medieval stronghold, Ludlow Castle gives you plenty to do and see on any visit. Why not quench your thirst for experiences and book a tour at the Ludlow Brewing Company? Great fun for real ale fans and you can have a few tasters too. Hic!
As Shropshire is a fantastic ‘outdoors’ county, take the time to visit some of its most iconic locations. Prepare to stretch your legs and get your blood pumping with a steep walk up The Wrekin, an ancient hilltop fortress near Telford, and you’ll be rewarded with glorious 360º views at the top. The county is also home to the beautiful Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Coming in at just over 300sq. miles and covering almost a quarter of the county, the Shropshire Hills are a much-visited favourite for locals and visitors from around the world looking for peace and relaxation while walking among this precious landscape.
Bury Ditches near Bishop’s Castle is an iron age hill fort with fabulous views and several walking trails in the surrounding woodland. Two highlights in the Stiperstones area include the Devil’s Chair and nearby Manstone Rock, both part of a ridge of quartzite rock. Nearby, The Bog Mine and Visitors Centre give you a glimpse into a former mining community with scenic, circular walks to enjoy.
Dudmaston Hall has a landscape park of about 185 hectares, with gardens covering about 3.6 hectares. Features include a patio, rockery and herbaceous beds. There is also the Dingle, a wooded valley with walks.
Acton Burnell has the remains of a fortified manor house which is in the care of English Heritage. There is also a deer park which was later developed as a landscape park. Other features include a walled garden, two artificial lakes and a grotto.
Topography, geology, and climate
With a wonderfully rural landscape, Shropshire has some of the finest countryside and uplands in the country, and it also provides a mix of soil types and assorted land qualities with a range of fertility levels.
Much of the north and centre of the county consists of loam and clay soils which vary between slightly acidic and base-rich with a low to moderate fertility. There are patches of free-draining sandy soil and high-acid sand and loam mix. In the south, there are large areas of free-draining, but low fertility loam soils, particularly over the Shropshire Hills AONB and acid loam soils over rockier areas in the Long Mynd. There’s also plenty of mild acid, loam and clay soils with a higher level of fertility.
Shropshire’s weather and climate vary due to the mix of low-lying land in the north and hillier areas in the south and west. Temperatures across the summer are typically similar to other West Midlands counties, averaging around 21ºC (69ºF). Winter temperatures can drop to around 2ºC (35ºF) though can drop further on the higher ground. The annual rainfall averages at around 660mm (26”), although there can be more in the south and west.
Shropshire’s parks and gardens
Complementing Shropshire’s stunning landscapes, the county also has many beautiful gardens to enjoy. Offering a wide variety of styles and plantings, each garden gives as much joy to every visitor as it does inspiration for keen gardeners.
- North Shropshire
Just east of Shrewsbury, National Trust property Attingham Park is an 18th-century country house estate featuring wonderful surrounding parkland and a large organic walled garden. Continuously being restored to its former glory, the two acre garden is a treat in every season. From blossoming fruit trees and shrubs, vivid annual plants and herbaceous borders, to spectacular glasshouses, there’s plenty for the senses to take in.
Wollerton Old Hall Garden near Market Drayton is an exceptional old English garden covering four acres. Another garden for every season and something of a hidden gem, Wollerton has several garden rooms and a wonderful mix of formal and wild plantings. Expect to see fantastic displays of anemones, hellebores, and tulips in spring, followed by resplendent roses and delphiniums in summer, and late flowerings on asters and dahlias through the autumn.
Also near Market Drayton, the Goldstone Hall Hotel is not just an award-winning hotel but also a venue with a spectacular 5-acre garden off the beaten track. As an RHS partner garden, expect a diverse collection of plants and flowers with plenty of varieties that are at their best from March to October. Extensive, wide herbaceous borders filled with hardy perennials occupy the Walled garden, while the Rose garden displays a riot of colour and scent right up until September. For a relaxing, wildlife-friendly garden, this is certainly one to visit.
- South Shropshire
One of the highlights for any gardener visiting Shropshire is surely an outing to David Austin Roses in Albrighton, home to the National Collection of English Roses. Set across five separate gardens, these award-winning roses offer a spectacular, and fragrant, day out. Expect to see plenty of beds, borders, and pots with climbers, ramblers, and shrubs, all displaying the best of the best. A visit to the plant centre is a necessity to introduce some of that quality into your own garden.
Another nursery and attractive garden combo is the Wildgoose Nursery in Munslow near Ludlow. Covering two acres, this lovely walled garden is the perfect showcase for many of the nursery’s offerings. Pathways lead you through a series of garden rooms, each displaying beautifully wild and informal designs and planting schemes. Highlights include colour themed ornamental gardens such as the Hot garden and Floral meadow alongside an ornamental vegetable and cut flower garden, and plum orchard.
In Morville near Bridgnorth, the Dower House Garden is a 1.5 acre garden sitting inside the grounds of National Trust property, Morville Hall. Designed as a series of separate gardens, each has a style from different historical periods using traditional plantings. Highlights include the Knot garden with its herb collection, the Canal garden with the 60ft water feature and topiary displays, and the Victorian Rose border filled with fantastic peonies and rose garlands, but there’s plenty more to discover.